“Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures.” – General Stanly Mcrystal, Former Commander ISAF. 1
Pakistan shares more than 2,912 km in borders with India and 2,430 km with Afghanistan.2 Pakistan’s relations with both these states have never been cordial. Both states play an important role in the strategic calculus of Pakistan. Pakistan faces credible threats from both these states, with the geographical proximity to India and Afghanistan placing Pakistan in a critical situation. Hostile relations with India and Afghanistan have threatened the security of Pakistan, forcing Pakistan to allocate iresources on these two fronts to safeguard its borders.
Keeping in mind Indian strategic thinking over the years, Pakistan has to analyze the future threat to its sovereignty and integrity from the Indian presence in Afghanistan. Furthermore India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan is also a source of concern for Pakistan for geopolitical and geo-strategic reasons.
Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan has never been cordial in the past except in the Taliban era, when Pakistan had no credible threats from Afghanistan, but after 9/11 and change in the geo-political structure of Afghanistan, India entered in Afghanistan’s great game. India got favorable support from the newly formed Karzai government.
To counter Taliban and Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan, India strengthened the defence of the Northern Alliance by providing high-altitude warfare equipment worth of $ 10 million through its Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Indian defence advisers provided technical advice to the Northern Alliance.3
The Indian role in Afghanistan is considered to be a source of concern for Pakistan. According to western analyst Frank Cook; “India’s increasing role in Afghanistan through reconstruction projects and diplomatic efforts is also of concern to Pakistan. India’s influence could lead to a strategic encirclement of Pakistan.”4
Pakistan would never allow strategic cuddle by India. Pakistan has always reiterated its position on Afghanistan that it wants peace and stability in Afghanistan, because peace and stability in Afghanistan is paramount for the peace and stability of Pakistan. International community must refrain India from its covert operations in Afghanistan against Pakistan. India is actively involved in Afghanistan; it is working in Afghanistan to build its infrastructure and roads to undermine Pakistan’s influence. Recently India has built an important 218-km road that links Zaranj on the Iran-Afghan border and Delaram in south Afghanistan road which can lessen the Afghan dependence on Pakistan. Such development in Afghanistan would seriously affect the Pakistan’s strategic importance in the region.
Moreover India has also pledged $1.2 billion aid to Afghanistan for different reconstruction projects ranging from roads and bridges to power stations and parliament in which over 2,000 Indians are involved.4 Furthermore India will also build the Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul transmission line and sub-station at Chimtala Charikar.5
Furthermore her other projects in Afghanistan involves reconstruction of Selma Dam in Herat, hydro-electric power projects and electricity dual transmission lines. India has also provided assistance to Afghanistan in terms of training for education development, health care and training to Afghan diplomats and police. India will continue to have a strategic presence in Afghanistan even if the US and NATO Forces leave Afghanistan.6 Indian plans to stay in Afghanistan and its covert activities against Pakistan in guise of development and reconstruction in Afghanistan would seriously hamper peace and stability of the region. It would seriously obstruct Pakistan’s efforts against militancy and terrorism.
Moreover India has been the largest donor among the regional countries to Afghanistan, pledged an additional $ 50 million aid, total Indian assistance for Afghan reconstruction is $ 650 million.7 Such assistance to Afghanistan would give India more access in it, Afghan government would allow India to carry out its malicious covert activities against Pakistan. Pakistan faces two front war dilemma from Indian presence in Afghanistan. India could open another front for Pakistan from Afghanistan and put Pakistan in precarious situation.
India after 9/11 started increasing its influence in neighboring Afghanistan, In 2007 India established a military base at Ayni in Tajikistan. The base is of strategic importance. A base at Ayni allows India to respond rapidly to any emerging threats from Pakistan. It also gives New Delhi a limited but significant capability to inject Special Forces into hostile theatres and when the situation demands in the event of military confrontation with Pakistan, India would be able to strike Pakistan’s rear from Tajik soil Ayni.8
India will surely get the support of anti-Pakistan Afghan regime for its malicious activities inside Pakistan, but any misadventure would be costly for her, because pro-Pakistani tribesmen would be the first line of defense for Pakistan.
Pakistan considers India’s growing influence in Afghanistan as a threat. India has opened consulates in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. According to Pakistan, these consulates are providing cover to Indian intelligence agencies to carry out covert operations against Pakistan, as well as exacerbate separatism in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Pakistan would definitely go for countermeasures to undermine Indian covert and overt operations against Pakistan from Afghanistan. Indian presence at Eastern border and its presence in Afghanistan pose a severe security challenge to Pakistan. India must refrain from provocative strategies against Pakistan and it should work together with Pakistan to root out militancy, terrorism and its causes from the region. It must understand that Pakistan has suffered the most in fighting terrorism.
Pakistan would never accept any negative Indian role in Afghanistan. America must ensure this concern if it wants to stabilise Afghanistan. India and Pakistan ought to believe that proxy war in Afghanistan will benefit none; they must join hands together for the peace and stability of Afghanistan, only then long term peace and serenity could be expected in the region.
1. “COMISAF’S Initial Assessment”, International Security Assistance Force, http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdf?hpid=topnews, (accessed on November 20, 2009), p 11.
2. Muhammad Omar Iftikhar, “Geography: The borders of Pakistan”, The Dawn, October 17, 2009.
3. Fahmida Ashraf, “India–Afghanistan Relations: Post-9/11”, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, ISSI Journal, XXVII, no. 2, summer 2007.
4. Frank Cook, “Afghanistan: A Turning Point?”, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, http://www.nato-pa.int/default.asp?SHORTCUT=1783, (accessed on December 5, 2009).
5. “With Pakistan on mind, India, Afghanistan open crucial road”, Tha Indian, http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/politics/with-pakistan-on-mind-india-afghanistan-open-crucial-road-lead_100145940.html, (accessed on October 12, 2009).
6. Dr. Subhash Kapila, “Afghanistan: India Has Legitimate Strategic Interests in Its Stability”, South Asian Analysis Group, http://www.southasiaanalysis.org, (accessed on December 1, 2009).
7. Vishal Chandra, “Import of Afghan President’s Visit to India”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, http://www.idsa.in/idsastrategiccomments/ImportofAfghanPresidentsVisittoIndia_VChandra_260406, (accessed on December 5, 2009).
8. Fahmida Ashraf, “India–Afghanistan Relations: Post-9/11”, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Op Cit.